From June 26- July 3, five Dublin students joined Spanish teacher, Mel Bride, and ten high school students from Rhode Island, on a one-week service trip to Nicaragua with Al Campo International. Here Tricia Sullivan ’15, reflects on the trip and her experience.
On June 26, 18 of us set off for Nicaragua, not really knowing what to expect. We all shared a common goal--to help people-- but none of us could have imagined how rewarding every aspect of the trip would be. Our project was to build pigpens with families in the rural community of Las Palmas, Nicaragua. Working together with the families, we reached our goal of making ten pigpens to two days. We were immersed in Spanish 100% of the time, as we lived and worked with the Nicaraguan families. Speaking English wasn’t common in Las Palmas, so we had to learn to communicate without words sometimes. We also learned a lot about speaking their language, which helped us learn about their culture. Leaving the village was hard for a lot of us because of the wonderful people who lived there and had so generously hosted us in their humble homes.
The day after our departure from Las Palmas, we traveled to Somoto Canyon, and swam/climbed/pulled our way up the Coco River, which was also challenging for a lot of us. The quiet stillness of the mountains and countryside will be missed; the experience was definitely worth the challenges we faced.
Having left Nicaragua over a week ago, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the whole trip. A question I was asked before leaving was “how do you explain an experience like this to someone who's never done anything like it themselves?” When people ask me about my trip, most of them ask about the food, and about the project, or if I liked my host family. The hardest question to answer is the simplest one “did you like it?” I don’t think I could put into words the feelings I experienced while I was there. To me, nothing is more important than educating myself about other cultures, and learning to do selfless acts to help others, I know that now. In villages like Las Palmas, nutrition is not a simple goal to achieve. They don’t have the resources needed for a balanced diet, and without those resources, proper development is nonexistent. Growing babies and children need foods like broccoli and beets for their brains to fully develop. Things like childhood blindness are becoming more and more common because many children don’t have access to carrots. Nutrition education is one of Al Campo International’s main goals, and that’s why they work to help rural families grow a diversity of crops and raise their own livestock so that the whole community is benefited for generations to come. The pigpen project is just the beginning of a community-wide project that will eventually benefit all the families as each family will have a pigpen of their own and be able to raise pigs for family consumption as well as income generation. I learned so much from my family about hard work and the importance of community. I encourage anyone who can to do a trip like this.